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Artist Journey: Mechal Roe

last updated 25 February 2021

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Black History Month is coming to a close, but Bright is hopeful the message will ring throughout each month of the year- in all the years to come. To celebrate, we give you a glimpse into #BrightArtist and #BrightAuthor Mechal Roe’s world. From her self-published debuts with Happy Hair and Cool Cuts to New York Times Bestselling title Superheroes Are Everywhere (Philomel Books) written by Vice President Kamala Harris, Mechal’s resume speaks for itself. Her vision for representation in children’s books has come to life through her achievements, and offers young readers a chance to see characters that look like them in the books that fill their shelves. Please enjoy February’s Artist Journey spotlight, Mechal Roe.

Have you always been a creative? When did you decide you wanted to make a career out of your art?

I have created art since I was 6 years old. My mother is an artist and I would watch over her shoulder as she created portraits. When I was a senior in high school, I remember everyone choosing a college and I kept finding myself drawn to art school. It was controversial to choose such a school, but I knew art would be a part of my future and it brought me so much joy.

As you already know, February is Black History month! What does this month mean to you? As a Black woman, how has your race / gender influenced your work as an artist / author?

To be a black woman in America, Black History is a mandatory part of my life. What makes it more special this year and beyond is seeing other cultures celebrate it. I often share how I was a children’s wear designer for several years in an industry that rarely recognized Black beauty. It is important to create art that illustrates underrepresented girls and boys, not only for myself, but for kids who need to be recognized. It’s important to their confidence and self-esteem.

Can you share a little bit of your background with us before becoming an artist? Is there anyone in your life that you hope to emulate / inspires you on a daily basis?

I am inspired by my mom who is an artist and the motivation of one of my teachers. I love the spirit of many artists! Not just their work, but their view and joy of their craft. Ebony Miller’s work is amazing as well as Vanessa Bradley Newton.

How has your background inspired your work in children’s publishing? How has your time with Bright shaped you as an author / illustrator?

I think being a children’s wear designer has helped me organize my thoughts and be comfortable in challenging my style/art. I think it helps to keep children engaged in the art. I am still being shaped. My time with Bright has caused me to consider other people and their opinions of my art more, which is important to an artist. The work we do is by nature more introverted and it’s important to have different voices helping us grow beyond our own vision.

How would you describe your artistic style? What is your dream work environment?

I have two stronger art styles that I like to use for books. One, I would say is flat/graphic. I usually use this style for my Happy Hair series for Randomhouse Kids. The other style would be more painterly and cheerful. I enjoy color no matter the case, which is ironic as I used to be so afraid of it. I would love to work in an open / bright loft! That is my absolute dream! I would love a swing set as well and a place I can plan an organic garden for me and my future dog. :) A girl can dream.

Happy Hair

Cover of Mechal’s author-illustrated title, Happy Hair Girls.

Could you share a little bit about your artistic process when illustrating / writing a story?

I used to do my art and then write as I am visually driven, but now I write first. It has been liberating to write and then think about the best way to show the art. I really love the process which is standard in the publishing industry. I am working on several new projects that I am really excited about, and I can’t wait to share with everyone.

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